Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review & 2013 in Anticipation

Okay, maybe I didn't reach my original book goal, in terms of number, that is. I did, however, learn what was possible and attainable while maintaining full time student status, and managing two awesome, yet time consuming, jobs. It's not 50, that's for sure.

But, in reflecting on the purpose of my 2012 resolution, I realize that I did meet my goal. I read more in general. I read more non-fictions. Like, a lot more. I think in 2011 I read five books. I read 18 1/2 in 2012. Win in my book (no pun intended). It's something I've had to discuss with my debate kids ("Was your goal really to make it to nationals, or was it to become a better debater in the process?"). I have to practice what I preach.

While I celebrate the holiday and ring in the new year with friends, I'll also be looking ahead to 2013 and what I want to have accomplished, or what I want to have done for myself and my sanity despite my busy schedule. So, here you have it folks, my 2013 New Years Resolution list:
  • Read 30 books. Haha, funny. My friends and I are in it together and we're swearing it's actually going to happen this year. But I guess a better goal would be to read more than 18 1/2. We'll see. Although, I got the sexy Kindle Fire HD for Christmas, so maybe that'll increase my chances. :)
  • 365 Photo Challenge: take a photo a day. It's true what "they" say: "the days are long, but the years are short." I'm not terribly good at it, but I love taking photos, and why should we only capture "special" occasions? It'd be fun to have a year-in-review set of photos to look back on when I think of 2013. 
  • Leave more time for music. I'm a very casual piano, guitar, and now ukulele player. It's so relaxing for me to come home from a stressful day and sit at an instrument (especially the piano). I want to do more of that; we can all use more peace.
  • Run in the Color Run 5K. I'm in such bad shape and I need to be thinking more about my health. Now, I always say this and I never follow through, so my hopes aren't too high for this one. Bad attitude, but so it goes.
  • Graduate with my bachelor's degree (going to happen) and get into graduate school, the latter of which I'm very worried about. It's freaking competitive and I have mediocre academic accomplishments. Scary, man.
  • Blog more. I don't want to limit myself to just book reviews and such things; it gets boring for you and for me. Not that my life is otherwise exciting, but god, blogging about the same thing always gets old.
That's all she wrote... Here's to a successful, happy, healthy, and enjoyable 2013... Cheers!

It is also my blog's one year anniversary!

One Year Ago

Sunday, December 9, 2012

#18: My new goal is 20

I'm not sure why it is that I always forget how time consuming, you know, getting a degree is. It really does take over your life. Thus, I am 32 books behind on my original (ridiculous) goal. Although, going back and re-reading what the "goal" really stood for, I'm doing pretty well. I wanted to read more and I did that. I wanted to write a blog about it and I did that. I think that's a success.

But I digress.

Naturally, I went on to read book #2 of mega-series. It was good and I got more out of it, and all that jazz.

In fact, yesterday my debaters had their national qualifier tournament. Our team is part of one of the most talented, competitive, and cut-throat districts in the country. Our kids are incredibly hard workers and extremely skilled in what they do, but unfortunately a good handful of them missed qualifying by just about the smallest margin possible. Then I came home all bummed for them and finished off this book, at the end of which Dumbledore says, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." It made me think of our debaters. They have incredible abilities, but they also chose to make this season about leading their team with sponsorship. They represent their school, their district, their state, with excellence and class. That is far more important than any national tournament. I'm so proud of them and honored to have coached them.

But I digress.

The last week of classes and, subsequently, finals week is coming. I don't expect to get much reading done, but I'm sure as hell going to try!

Peace out, cyberspace.

Friday, November 23, 2012

#17... Here we go!

Thanks to all those crumb grubber kids I spend time with (nannying, elementary school, high school, oh my), I caught my second cold in about a six week span. It pretty much royally sucked, but I was able to spend so much time with the face of my childhood.

Oh hey, childhood. Good to see you!

I've read this amazing series about six times now and I really do get more out of it every time. The experience is much different now than it was when I was eight. I just can't wait to read the books to my future kids someday. Brilliant stuff I tell you.

And I really don't know what else to say about it. Five stars, OBVIOUSLY.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

#16... Slowly but surely...

Oh hello, blog. Have we met? It's been so long, I can't remember.

As I finally pass the halfway mark of my challenge, my only accomplishment is that the gap between books is getting shorter. Two months to a little over a month.... Yay?

I finally got around to reading another classic:

It took me FOREVER to get through it, mostly because I'm so ridiculously busy. But also: even though it is hilariously written, the plot isn't incredibly exciting. That's not to say it was bad. There were a lot of times when I reacted to certain lines with genuine laughter. Holden definitely has a way with words and he's just funny.

I will say that I kept waiting for some sudden twist of events that forced me to continue reading and kept me away from my schoolwork. But alas, I never really got that. I kind of liked the ending, though. It wasn't terribly exciting, but I liked the reality of it. The fact that he really wanted to do something fun and wild and crazy, but that's not how real life works. Of course, fun and wild and crazy is what makes many books great, but it was sort of refreshing to read otherwise. Maybe it's just me, but I digress.

I give it a solid three stars.

My next book is part of a series that I read almost every year around Christmastime. Ah, traditions. :) Until then!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

#15! ... Two months later...

Okay, so I will spend only limited time defending myself. And, by "limited," I mean I'm only going to use one word:



So instead I will classify my completion of book #15 as basically an amazing accomplishment, all while successfully learning a new job, applying to grad schools, and ACING MY FIRST TWO EXAMS OF THE SEMESTER, BOOM. Yes, kind sir (or madam), I am patting myself on the back. But who couldn't use some praise once in awhile? (Also, let's ignore the fact that the idea of reading 50 books this year is now reaching absolutely ridiculous proportions.)

Anyway, since I've been leaving you hanging, this was the most recent book choice:

It's caught my eye ever since it first came out and I saw it at bookstores. I didn't really know what it was about, but the SLP student in me suspected some kind of connection to the field.

What finally got me to borrow it from the library (yes, I am a dinosaur and do not yet own what you call an e-reader) was my professor's use of the first chapter audio in class. It was about the author's first trip to a speech pathologist and it was freaking hilarious! Now, the remainder of the book had nothing to do with speech pathology and it wasn't nearly as funny, but, ehhhh, it was alright. I'd give it 3 stars, I guess.

Also. I've definitely reached my (ORIGINAL, WOO) nonfiction goal this year. At least I'm not a major f-up on my goals!

Also, also. Don't be surprised if there's another two-month wait before book #16. Senior year's a bitch.

Also, also, also (last one, I promise). This would be a great piece for one of my high school speech kids! So book #15 had double purpose. Score.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Major Suckage

Well. I'm still just under halfway done with the (new goal) challenge. Which means I'm still behind. :( And I don't see any chance of catching up anytime in August.

I was doing so well and read FIVE in July (go me!). But then I went on vacation with my family. One would think that being on vacation would mean tons of time for reading, but alas, it was like GO GO GO. Super fun and amazing, but BUSY (we went on a "harbor town tour" along Lakes Superior and Michigan in case you care).

And then... I put in my two-week notice at work to switch to a seasonal employee and be done once school starts. So they decided to schedule me 47923075029384023 hours to take advantage of me. Bitches. I haven't even been able to see my friends.

Now. I'm almost done with my summer job and I'm starting my school year debate and nanny jobs and ALSO studying for the GRE. OMGZ. Oh, woe is me. Why must general life responsibilities get in the way of my recreational reading!? Cruel cruel world we live in.

So, as much as I regret to say it, bye-bye until who knows when. Maybe I will get another book read between the start of September and after labor day when school starts.... Only time will tell!

Wish me luck...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

#14: Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

I'm getting as much reading in as I can before school starts because we all know school is a freaking time sucker. Boo. So my goal is to be decently past halfway by the time school starts. Looks like I'm on track!

I've owned a copy of this one for over a year now. When I was taking a Literature class at my old University, we had a book review assignment in which we basically recommended one of our favorite books to the class. One of my classmates quite passionately recommended this one. I'd heard about it before of course, but the way he described the book was very intriguing. So last summer I got it on sale and intended to read it eventually.

It was excellent. My only regret is that I hadn't experienced the brilliance sooner! There were so many deep societal and personal themes interlaced beautifully. It was about the pursuit of happiness, legacy, tradition, simplicity, societal impact, passion, with a touch a love and friendship. And so much more. It was a quick read, but it was compelling to me in a way different from how most books are compelling to me.

I chose to make this book number 14 in memory of Ray Bradbury who recently passed away at 91 years old. Bravo, Mr. Bradbury. Great work! Glad I finally decided to pick it up and stick with it!

<Update: Today I read all the extras (the Afterword, Coda, and "Conversation with Ray Bradbury" that came with the 50th anniversary edition). Let me just add that I think I love this book even more after these extras brought to my attention all the sickening similarities between Bradbury's prediction of the future and our current society. Powerful stuff. It's more than just about books. Makes you think...>

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

#13: Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang - Chelsea Handler

You really can't go wrong with Chelsea Handler. Love her!

Let me just say: it's dangerous working in a bookstore with thousands of books and your discount card staring you directly in the face.

Yep. Bought this one in the awesome used book section of the store. So at least, after my discount, it only cost me around $3-4. Major win in my "book" (pun intended).

Basically, I loved it.

I was that @$$ clown sitting in the middle of a damn car repair shop laughing my patootie off while the other customers looked at me and wondered if I had broken out of a mental institution. (Similar instances occurred at Target, my little brother's baseball game, and the bar... JK about that last one, you gullible fools.)

It was nothing deep, but it was a perfect light summer read that kept me in good spirits. Yay!

Now for #14!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

#12: The Pilot's Wife - Anita Shreve

I'm on a roll! Hoping by the time school starts I will be all caught up and ready to kick this challenge in the @$$! :) (Well sort of. Because we should ignore the fact that the title of this blog is nowhere near the amount of books I will actually have read in 2012. Okay? Okay. Yay for new, realistic goals).

The twelfth book of my challenge... um.... sucked.

Let's be honest, I was at my mom and dad's when I needed a new book to read. I grabbed it, asked my mom if it was any good (to which she replied, "You know, I don't even remember if I've read it..."), so I said "What the hell?" and cracked it open.

Let me just explain that no matter how badly a book starts, I generally power through it until the end. I've read dozens of books with horrible or slow beginnings that get amazing eventually. I don't like to "give up" on a book, so to speak.

Needless to say, this one did NOT get amazing. Far from it. I didn't hate it, no. But there are so many hundreds of books out there that are so much better (many of which I have read), so I rate it pretty low.

First of all, the writing style is exhausting. It's good to set the scene, don't get me wrong. But do we REALLY need to know that there is a dog in the distance taking a poo and to also know the precise color of the said poo?! (Okay, that was an exaggeration but not by much!) 

As for the story line. 95% of it was so predictable it was painful. Which, in and of itself, isn't always necessarily a bad thing, but I was already annoyed about the writing style and the characters were dumb. It was like a bad Nicholas Sparks book... but worse. 

I gave it only ONE star on Goodreads. So this Anita Shreve chick.... Wherever you are, don't quit your day job.

Oh well. You win some, you lose some! And the next book on my list is SURE to be a WIN. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

#11 (and THIRD nonfiction!): Becoming Sister Wives - Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn Brown

Before you judge me for my 11th book this year (yay, 11!), let me explain to you my fascinations with such a genre.

First of all, people of unfamiliar lifestyles and religions have always piqued my interest. I am definitely one to watch documentaries on strange or unconventional families on channels like the late Discovery Health (may it rest in peace) or TLC. So that show, "Sister Wives," is no exception.

My aunt was actually the first to introduce me to the show. We both share a common interest in this particular type of reality TV shows and she knew I would be as interested as she was.

As expected, I quickly became fascinated with the everyday life of a family who practiced a lifestyle I was completely unfamiliar with. And when my aunt was visiting recently, we watched the two hour season finale together, our eyes glued to the screen. At the end of the finale, they advertised their book that neither of us had known existed. Of course, we were both interested. So a couple days later we went out to the bookstore and she bought it. She promised me that when she finished, she'd send it to me from Utah.

It arrived at my apartment just a few days ago and I picked it up immediately! It was a fairly quick read and, although it didn't reveal too much more than what I know from the show, I give it a solid three stars.

It has always been my belief that, as long as the lifestyles of some do not affect the lives of others in a negative way, they have the right to live their lives as they please. This idea applies to many realms such as general religious tolerance and gay rights. And while I can never fathom either myself or anyone in my life living a polygamous lifestyle, I feel that it is our job as a progressive society to be generally more open-minded and accepting of those who aren't like ourselves. If being polygamous makes these people happy, and their happiness isn't threatening the happiness of others, why be hateful?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

#10 (and #2 nonfiction): Expecting Adam - Martha Beck

It's been an incredibly busy and fun couple of weeks, all the while little of my summer list getting accomplished. But I still managed to read a book. Yay for me!

I had lots of family visiting for the past couple of weeks, and the crazy amounts of family time was nothing short of wonderful. There's nothing like going back to your roots and spending some good old-fashioned quality time with the people you love!

UPDATE: Just had to share this picture. Cutie patooties! My baby cousin on the left, and her brother (my other cousin, but also my Godson) in my lap. Love them more than life itself! 

Anyway, while my aunt was here, she gave me a book of hers to read. I had such a long list of my own piling up on my desk, but it intrigued me, so I cracked it open, often unable to put it down for an hour or two.

It's about a young, intelligent Harvard married couple expecting their second child and finding out he has Down syndrome. It doesn't really read much like a nonfiction which was interesting. And the writing style has a touch of humor. I loved it. Reading it was also a somewhat spiritual experience, as the mother walks you through her own experiences learning to reject everything she'd learned about "The Meaning of Life" at Harvard. It gets you thinking about what really matters and what doesn't.

I loved it. I give it 4 stars!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

#9: The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

There's nothing like being so engrossed in a book that you stay up impressively late flipping the pages until the end. And your eyes are so tired of being open that your contacts are all dry and sticky.

I've read a lot of good books, but it's been quite a while since I've experienced the above.

Good God, even the cover is beautiful.
Green's "The Fault in Our Stars" far exceeds my expectations. And I had high expectations (due to the extreme praise in word-of-mouth reviews) despite its classification of a young adult novel. Which shouldn't be any reason to hold it back. Although I occasionally enjoy picking up books geared toward a younger audience, I've stayed away from those lately because their authors simply tend to lack respect for their readers (a concept put into words by a friend of mine as we discussed modern teen novels).

What makes John Green unique in this sense, is that he doesn't write something that is fluffy and happy and shallow just because his audience is younger. But rather, he fully intends and expects his younger reader base to understand and appreciate mature musings of the world.

"The Fault in Our Stars" is a heartbreaking story that pulls on heartstrings. But it's also much much more than that. Instead of just a compelling story, it is a compelling story that's written beautifully. I found myself on several occasions rereading some of my favorite lines, just because the way the sentences are put together is brilliant. I couldn't possibly adequately convey the beauty that are the words on those pages.

And it is beautifully written during the humorous parts, the more somber parts, as well as the thoughtful parts. Not to mention, the balance between these three is perfection.

Extraordinary read! Five stars and two thumbs up for this one! Definitely the best of the year so far.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

More failure, but also some win! Also: incoherent ranting.

So I went with my friend to the library already a couple weeks ago now. I decided to try a little harder to honor a couple items on my (summer) bucket list and grabbed an "Italian for Dummies" book and a nonfiction (my goal is to read 5 this year, since this is a genre I'd like to read more of).

Let me give you a little summary of how those have been going....

I think I've now opened the Italian book twice, and that was right after I got it. Sigh. I would love to be able to say things in Italian, but I'm way too stinkin' lazy to actually go through the learning process on any more languages. After 7 or 8 years learning German, I'm all "languaged" out!

As for the nonfiction, I picked up a biography on Princess Diana. I was actually pretty excited to read it; I think the lives of royal families are fascinating, especially Di's. And, you know, it's not all that bad. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it's interesting. However, I've been chugging along slowly for a couple weeks and, at this point, I'm more interested in finishing so I can read my next book (one of the many I've bought irresponsibly) than because I'm enjoying it. I also know I will not be able to finish it by the time it's due at the library, so I'm calling this one a fail and moving on.

In other news, I started a new job at a cafe inside a book store and I love it! Perfect environment for me. It's taking some time to learn all the drinks, but I can't be too hard on myself because I've never worked at a coffee place before.

Anyway, on Sunday, the power in our entire half of the mall went out! It was a little hectic, until they told me I could leave a couple hours early! Which meant I got to get a head start driving down to my cousin's grad party (which was about 45 minutes away). It was a whole lotta win until my power steering went out... and then my AC (and OF COURSE it was sweltering out that day). Long story short I was able to drive it to a car place near my aunt and uncle's house, but I had to stay overnight with NO overnight stuff. Boo.

But. BUT! I ended up just being really glad my car broke down (my parents agreed to pay for it and it all worked out in the end) because I got to spend an extra day with the fam, which included my grandparents in town from South Carolina. It was so great. Reminded me of my childhood when the whole family (all 20 of us) would rent a beautiful house on the beach every summer. Good times!

Here's a gem from almost 20 years ago! Probably one of the first years of the traditional vacay. My cousin is plopping sand in my hair.... In typical Holden Beach fashion! (Fun Fact: the baby in the background is the one who just graduated. Time flies!)

I also scored TONS of yummy grad party leftovers. WIN!

Spending all that time with my aunt and uncle, grandparents, and cousins was so great. It hit me that I've been focusing too much on what I don't have for too long, and it's time to start appreciating what I do have. I grew up being really close with my extended family. It's tough sometimes that they live all over the country: Arizona, Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin. As we've grown older, it's been much harder to get together and we go much longer between visits.

Sometimes I feel sorry for myself that I don't have a huge circle of friends, the perfect roommate, or lots of family that lives close by. But I have much much more than so many people, and when I think of my friends and family, I think of each of them so fondly! I know I couldn't possibly be more lucky and blessed. Nobody's perfect, but my friends and family are all pretty great!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

#8: To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee

The one-third mark (of the new, more realistic challenge) is in sight! Nevermind the fact that we're nearly halfway through the year and I'm still behind. But it's okay! Summer = Book Challenge Recommencement. :)
I decided to indulge in a classic that I have read before, and why not count it in the challenge anyway, damn it.

I love love LOVE this book. The characters are intriguing, the plot creates a page-turner, and Lee's abundance of themes are admirable. I hadn't read it since I was about 14, so it was definitely time to pick up again! And, of course, being 7 years older, I certainly picked up on more. It was truly an enjoyable read to kick off my summer!

In other news: speaking of summer, I got a summer job, yay me! I will be working in the cafe of my local book store. I've always wanted to work in a bookstore because of the atmosphere, so it should be fun. And also the books. And also the discounts....

The one major downfall is that it pays pretty bad. Like, I'm pretty sure it's minimum wage. Oh well, soon enough I will return to my super awesome school year gig and be rich (just kidding on the rich part...)

Anyway, I have decided that, since I am working at a bookstore, there would be ZERO excuse for me not completing the book challenge (30, NOT 50- don't be fooled by the actual title of this blog, people). So, stay tuned! It's happening!!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

#7! Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins (FINALLY)

Well, the time has finally come where I have pulled my lazy face out of the food (not really actually, I'm still eating like a fat kid eats cake) and my lazy brain away from the TV (... also false) and finished the 7th book!

My general assessment: it was "aiight." To be quite honest, the feeling I had when I finished the last page was not "OMG amazeballs!" but rather more like "Good God, I've finally finished that series and I can move onto bigger and better things..."

I mean, I have no big complaints other than it wasn't anything special. Part of me wondered if it's because, at the age of 21, I've graduated from being a child who likes children's books! Ha. But then I realized that it really doesn't matter how old I am or the reading level of the book. A truly great piece of literature will bring joy to readers of all ages! As I've probably mentioned too many times already (in different words)... This is something Harry Potter does very well.

Yes, I realize I compare every young adult series to Harry Potter because, let's face it, Rowling set the bar pretty damn high! And why should we be easier on the books that follow?

Don't get me wrong, the Hunger Games series was good enough to get me to buy all three and keep reading. It's not very deep, but there are some parts that got me thinking and that is a start. And, I will say, the concept is very fascinating. Collins just could have done so much more with it.

On a scale of 1 to Harry Potter, I give the Hunger Games series a solid 5.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Not Book #7: In which I ramble about nothing and ignore the fact that this blog has nothing to do with its title

Our last freaking fundraiser (a "Happy Hour for the Cure") happened Friday and I can finally! FINALLY! enjoy a couple days of my summer before I start the dreaded job hunt. Oh woe is me. I have to be an adult and work. Boo hoo!

But first, I acted like a 40-year-old virgin and have been at my parents' for, like, a week now. It's nice to hang out with the fam damily AND NOT HAVE TO COOK OMG, but holy HOT DAMN, I need to go back home and grow the heck up.

So that is happening.... tomorrow. I stayed until my mom's birthday (which was yesterday) and I was going to go home today but SURPRISE, my mom asked me to stay tomorrow morning for the Culligan guy to fix their water softener. Which means I have exactly one more day to freeload.

Goals for the summer:

- Spend some time outside of the dark, cold cave that is my apartment, i.e) walk to the nearby park that I have yet to discover.
- Seriously work on the pasty whiteness that is my skin. When I was little, I would get so dark that people would mistake me for an African American (just kidding, but BARELY). Now people mistake me for a ghost (not really, but they could...) I need to stop being a vampire who is afraid of sunlight.
- Lose some weight and get rid of the cottage cheese that is my thighs and ass. Like, shedding 20-30 pounds would be amazing.
- Study for the death sentence GRE that will be taking place this fall. OMG STRESS.
- Shadow a speech pathologist. (Because I can only talk about it without actually doing it for so long...)
- I would LOVE to go on vacation.... Preferably a road trip of some kind. Because SUMMER.

This post is so embarrassing and the most scattered one I've ever written... ever.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I'm still alive...

Or barely, that is. This is the last week of classes and next week is finals week, so I'm sad to say I have not been anywhere near the world of literature. Well... I carry my book in my backpack every day, but that's the closest I get.

 I am aware that I am way way way behind if I want to get in 50-- or even just 30-- books in this year. (How did it get to be MAY already!?) But I told myself from the beginning that I didn't want to make reading (one of the few things that brings me peace) into a stressful event. I have so many deadlines in my life already: homework, exams, coaching obligations, fundraising...

 In fact, let's take this time to extend my blog beyond books in the mean time and share a little bit about what else I've been up to lately (besides stuDYING because that's nothing exciting).


Some of my family and a couple friends are participating as a team in the Susan G. Komen 3Day for the Cure this August. We have to raise $2300 per person and we have a team of 5 (YIKES!) so we've been working really hard to raise enough for everyone to participate (without having to pay out of pocket, because you're actually obligated to the money once you sign up). Which is why I haven't technically signed up yet. If we don't raise enough, I, a college student, clearly do not have $2300 laying around. So, by suggestion of my smart mother, I am waiting until I know we have the money. But I've been fundraising and training (6-7 mile walks!) so I really hope we raise enough for me. Cross your fingers!

 In addition to the fundraising (and trying to keep my apartment clean/livable) I've found something else to bring me peace while reading isn't an option (because we all know I'll pick up a book, never put it down, and get nothing done!).

 2. Yoga!

 I LOVE IT! Summer is coming, which means I'll have to reveal a little more than I'm comfortable with due to the warm weather. I cut snacking down to a minimum (though I'm not on any strict diet) and since I hate running, I thought I'd try some daily yoga. I figured, hey, maybe it'll bring some peace and balance in my life... I have a DVD that I bought a while ago and tried a couple times:

I love this reality TV star! Besides the fact that she's freakin' hilarious, she's also sort of inspiring in a way. Anyway, I never really stuck with it, but I do remember enjoying it, so I wanted to try to get into a daily routine. I've now done four days in a row (I don't think I've ever stuck to a workout plan that long!) and going strong. The first day was BRUTAL but it got easier tenfold even the second day! I feel so relaxed, peaceful, balanced, and motivated when I finish. Yoga has such a detoxifying effect. This is my favorite among the poses I have learned:

Tree pose. :) Feels great!

 Stay tuned! As soon as finals are over, there's no doubt I'll get through my next book in a matter of just a few days!

Monday, April 23, 2012

#6: Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins

Naturally, to complete number 6 of 30 (or 50, who knows anymore?), I moved on to the second book of the extremely popular teen trilogy:

I like that this book has sort of an activist and empowerment parallel. I also think that the character development definitely improves from book one. As in The Hunger Games, the writing style is much less than brilliant and nothing special. But I can't help but want to read more about this country and its citizens. However, I'm not getting enough details! Collins fails in an area where Rowling doesn't. When we read Harry Potter we know so much about their world-- the currency, the government, popular literature, etc etc. There's a lot we don't know about Panem. And that's where I think the trilogy is lacking.

I'm reaching an age (yikes!) in which popular teen series are far from the first novels I pick up. I think I will always be curious about those that have become a sensation of sorts, but I'm more interested in classic literature, realistic fiction, and even non-fiction. I grew up with Harry Potter (love) and I was in high school during Twilight, but it's clear how I would rank the three:

Harry Potter................... Hunger Games.................................................................................................................................... Twilight. (Yeah, not a fan of Twilight.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Book #5: The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

I finally gave in to the mainstream teen population and read The Hunger Games. If I had a dollar for every time someone said "YOU HAVE TO READ IT, OMGZ" I would be a rich lady!

It was good enough, but I think the hype built it up a little too much. Don't get me wrong, the story was compelling and I'll be reading the next books in the series, but it was no Harry Potter. :)

Here's to hoping I get the Kindle Fire I asked for for my birthday and I'll be able to get the next two soon!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Book #4: Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay

I continued my challenge with a book I bought awhile ago (by recommendation of my mother) that I've been excited to read for months:

It was absolutely SPECTACULAR! I've read a lot of good books in my time, and there have been a lot of them I liked, but very few make it to my list of all-time favorites. This would be one of those rare occasions! I can honestly say that I don't remember the last book I read that was this good and that I literally couldn't put down. Seriously. Read it.

Besides the fact that it has such a compelling story (two stories actually that merge into one so seamlessly), the author does a brilliant job of connecting so passionately the past, present, and future. While we read about a present-day journalist living in France and working on a piece about an underrated aspect of World War II, we are also given powerful pieces of a story about a little girl and her family being taken to camps by the French police. And, well, I won't give it away, but by the end, the two stories are brought together so beautifully.

It's hard to remember parts of human history, especially when it involves horrible suffering, pain, and loss. But this novel profoundly demonstrates the importance of allowing even the most painful times to be a part of us, today and tomorrow.

Magnificent read!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Book #3: The King's Speech: how one man saved the British monarchy - Mark Logue & Peter Conradi

As I've said, I didn't go on to finish the "dragon tattoo" trilogy. Instead, I jumped into a genre that is truly neglected on my bookshelf. My goal is to read five non-fictions this year and I've now checked non-fiction #1 off my list!

First of all, I am one of the few people who have NOT seen the movie. I know, I know... "You're a speech pathology major, why the hell haven't you seen this movie?!" I've gotten that already. A lot. Just haven't gotten around to it. I've been dying to see it forever now. Just never did.

But not having seen the movie, I approached this book in a way that meant I had no knowledge of the details of the story. This was kind of refreshing. Within the non-fiction realm, I tend to gravitate toward books of things I already know, factual stories or information that I'm so interested in that I want to read about every detail. This time I just simply read about a story that I'd never known before.

And what a good story it was. Growing up, I had reservations and insecurities about speaking up in school or in public in general. Not because I had any sort of speech problem really (I had a minor lisp in early childhood, but that never persisted), but because I was just a really shy kid. In high school, by some strange twist of fate, I ended up on my school's speech team. I learned to get past my fears, I ended up being a captain, and I actually started to do quite well. Now I coach that same team. I've learned the power of voice and speech simply through practice. Much like the King. Until the day he died, the anxiety for him never fully went away, and it certainly hasn't for me either, but his story demonstrates the importance of will and confidence.

This book was definitely a change of pace from my usual compelling and heart-wrenching favorites. It was by no means any sort of thriller, but a story worth reading about. I will now be breaking out the King's Speech DVD I bought a while ago!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Book #2: The Girl Who Played With Fire - Stieg Larsson

Well, the day has finally come! Despite the start of the new semester and being in the throes of coaching my first speech season, I can now cross off my second book of the challenge. It feels so good to know that it is possible to find time for recreational reading during such a busy time in my life.

The second book on my 2012 list is a natural progression from book #1.

I have to say, it turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment. This series is very technical (which is fine, since that is the very nature of the genre), but at times, there is an unnecessary amount of detail. While I will concede to the fact that the overall story of this sequel was slightly compelling, there is a good chunk of the middle that could be taken out.

The problem is that, eventually, reading this book got to the point where I was reading it quickly NOT because it was so good, but because I wanted to get through it faster, allowing me to move on to my next read. It started to seem like reading it was a chore, and it dragged on and on and... Well, you get the point. The 630 pages could have been more like 300.

However, I don't want to bash it completely. The end turned out to be yet another powerful stand against "men who hate women." But I will say, solving the mystery wasn't nearly as satisfying as it was in the first installment.

Nonetheless, I trudged through it because very rarely do I give up on a book. I enjoyed the overall picture (the beginning and the end), but I did not enjoy the middle. I give it a mere two stars. Boo.

Now to pick up the pace! According to my profile, I am 3 books behind. Oops. But the good news is, I have almost 11 months remaining. Stay tuned for book #3 (and no, it is NOT going to be Stieg Larsson's third installment...)!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Book #1: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

I started off the new year with a book whose genre rarely makes it on my reading list.

If you live under a rock, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson is the first of a crime/thriller trilogy, and I have to say, it's been diligently fighting its way onto my bookshelf. My mom and grandma have both read it and have been continually recommending it to me. I started it sometime last summer and wasn't initially impressed, so I quickly moved on and picked up another book.

I'm glad I gave it another shot. Although I would still assert that it starts excruciatingly slow, I concede to the fact that a slow start was necessary for the sheer amount of background information required. The novel deals with an incredible amount of topics including, but not limited to, business fraud, women victims, family secrets, sexual sadism, and the list goes on. And yet, amazingly, the story never really seemed scattered or fragmented, but included all these themes seamlessly.

I have but one further criticism which regards the title. The original title was Men Who Hate Women, and is in my opinion, far more fitting than the new title. Though I can't deny that it's catchy, the old title feels much more representative of the book's main themes.

Overall, I would definitely recommend that my friends (who also picked up and soon put down this book in the past) give it another shot and stick with it. I will definitely be moving on to the subsequent installments of the trilogy-- stay tuned!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year! / 2012 Book Challenge Commences!

Happy New Year from my friends and I to you!

Time to begin the impossible. Book #1 starts now. :)